By Paul Ndiho
Rwanda and Congo agreed to reduce tensions following a day of talks between their presidents mediated by Angola, Congo’s presidency announced on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the two countries will revive a Congo-Rwanda commission which will resume activities on July 12 in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
Unconfirmed reports say the Congolese rebel group M23 says that talks between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Democratic Republic of Congo counterpart Félix Tshisekedi will not stop the fighting and withdraw from its positions in eastern DR Congo. The voice of America has not been able to verify this report independently, but the M23 spokesperson Major Willy Ngoma was quoted as saying that.
“Withdrawing to go where?” “We are Congolese. Do you want us to live without a country?”
But the talks’ mediator, Angolan President Joao Lourenco, went further, announcing a “ceasefire” — although giving no details. The DRC has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge the small central African country always denied.
“We had positive progress, from our point of view. We agreed on a ceasefire. Among other measures contained in the roadmap that has just been presented, we decided on creating a mechanism of observation adhoc, in addition to the one already existing at the level of the International Conference of Great Lakes region.”
Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi says he hopes talks at a mini-summit in Angola will lead to “an immediate ceasefire and a “roadmap” towards normalizing diplomatic ties, including through ending hostilities involving the M23 militia in eastern DRC.
“I hope this process will bring an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of that group M23 and hoping the implementation of the roadmap that could lead us to a process of peace, stability, and mutual trust.”
Rwanda and Congo had traded angry statements stemming from allegations that Rwanda backs the M23, primarily consisting of Tutsi fighters from Congo. But Rwanda has denied it is backing the rebels. Rwanda, in turn, accuses Congo of supporting a group of insurgents with members who allegedly took part in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
“I also thank President Tshisekedi for his contributions that adding to which we are also to make our contribution to move things forward and we are looking forward to creating a normalization between our two countries by also resolving issues that are on the ground that have led us to this point.”
After mainly lying dormant for years, the M23 resumed fighting last November after accusing the Congolese government of failing to honor an agreement to incorporate its fighters into the army. As a result, the M23 previous month seized a Congolese town near the Uganda border.
The African Union earlier this year asked Angola to mediate between Congo and Rwanda under the auspices of a regional body known as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. About 170,000 people have been displaced since M23 resurfaced in eastern Congo.